The European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed a finance contract worth EUR 250 million with the ASF Group to improve the quality of its motorway network. This is the first agreement concluded directly between the EIB and ASF following the reform of the French motorway system and the partial privatisation of ASF. Mr Bernard Val, Chairman of ASF's Board of Directors, Mr Jacques Tavernier, Managing Director of ASF, and Mr Philippe de Fontaine Vive, EIB Vice-President, signed the contract in a ceremony at the EIB's Paris Office on Monday 15 November 2004.

This EIB loan will support the implementation of the 2003-2005 ICAS programme of additional investment in motorways already commissioned undertaken by ASF and ESCOTA on their networks. This is aimed in particular at modernising existing stretches of motorway along with improving safety and the quality of the services provided to motorway users.

Traffic conditions will be improved through the construction of additional lanes and building of new interchanges and toll-booth areas. Road safety will be enhanced by renovating rest areas, creating lay-bys on the hard shoulder, erecting extra road signs and transforming and installing operating equipment (lighting, emergency call systems, etc.). Lastly, the commissioning of new interchanges will facilitate access to the network in certain regions, thereby fostering economic development.

The ASF Group's motorway network, located south of the Loire, is strategically positioned in Europe and forms part of the Trans-European Networks. This project will further the EIB's objective of developing transport infrastructure that benefits the EU.

The EIB has already granted over EUR 1.4 billion via Caisse Nationale des Autoroutes (CNA) for the construction of new stretches of the ASF/ESCOTA motorway network: 116 million for the Le Mans-Angers section (A11), 72 million for the Arles-Nîmes section (A55), 367 million for the Nantes-Niort and Niort-Oulmes sections (A83), 471 million for the Brive-Cahors-Montauban section (A20), 119 million for the Toulouse-Pamiers section (A66), 62 million for the Cuers - Le Cannet-des-Maures section (A57) and 227 million for the Manosque-Sisteron and Sisteron-La Saulce sections (A51).

For over twenty years, the EIB has contributed to the development of the French motorway network, principally via Caisse Nationale des Autoroutes (CNA). During this period, it has provided close on EUR 7 billion for the construction of sections of motorway in France.

As part of its policy of supporting the development of European communications infrastructure, since 1993 the EIB has earmarked some EUR 58 billion for the financing of transport networks throughout the European Union.